A test drive is an important step to buying a used car. Whether you’re getting it from a private seller or a used car dealer, test driving should involve more than getting comfortable behind the wheel and listening to the radio. Safety, reliability, and your finances and peace of mind are at stake. Here’s an overview of what to look for during your test drive:

What You Can Afford 

Review your finances. Purchasing a used vehicle will save money if done right. Get pre-approved for financing with your bank or credit union, which can help determine a price range to aim for and show a dealer/seller you’re serious about your investment.

The Vehicle’s History

Next, start looking at different cars. Don’t get too attached just yet. Carfax makes it easy to learn about the vehicle’s repair history or whether it may or may not have existing issues. If there is a history of engine trouble or flooding (just a couple of examples) move on to the next car.

Inspect Before Testing

Check the oil, coolant, and transmission fluid levels as well as tire pressure. If fluids seem dirty, or the oil filler cap is sludgy and dark, or fan belts or hoses are cracked, there may be other problems. Check under the car for leaks. Feel the tire treads for wear, which might not only indicate a tire problem, but a worn suspension. On many cars, you can check brake rotor wear and pad thickness by looking through the wheels.

Before you turn on the ignition, always check the exterior and interior of the vehicle.

How to Test Drive a Car

Start by testing the heating, air conditioning, fan speed, air flow, power windows, door locks, or extra features such as moonroofs, sliding doors, or power tailgates. There shouldn’t be unusual odors coming from the vents. The seat belts should easily lock in place.

During the test drive, important things to notice include:

  • Noise during acceleration, turning, or braking.
  • Whistling sounds from the windows/sunroof.
  • The brake pedal vibrates or bottoms out during braking.
  • The car pulls left/right when you step on the pedal.
  • Warning lights or faulty gauges on the instrument panel.

What you feel is important as well. if you feel vibrations through your seat, they’re usually associated with something in the rear of the car. If the steering wheel doesn’t feel right, it may be the steering, suspension, brakes, tires, or engine.

When test driving a car, your ears are very important. Keep the windows down and turn off the radio. Ideally, you want to drive at 35 mph street speeds and 60 mph freeway speeds, and have a few turns of the steering wheel. If there are suspension bushing or steering rack problems, you might feel dead spots or notchiness. Try gentler turns on the freeway and a few lane changes; the response should be even, or else the shocks may be worn or the tires mismatched.

Even if you’re happy, bring the car to a mechanic. There may still be hidden issues. A serious seller should agree to an independent pre-purchase inspection and be open to negotiation if any issues are found.

Buy Used Cars in Hawthorne

At Hawthorne Auto Square, our team can help find the right car for you. From an extensive, always-changing inventory to aggressive financing, we enable you to drive away the same day. Even drive now and pay later with your tax refund! Contact our sales team at 866-707-7664 or visit our dealership today.